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4IR: The Invisible Revolution – Part Two

Part 2: Revolutionizing Your Morning Coffee

To read the first article in the series click here

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and the algorithms that underpin them are everywhere. Think about all you did yesterday, and with not too much struggle, it should be possible to identify some aspect of every activity that uses them. Let's start with the first cup of coffee in order to pinpoint both 4IR's omnipresence and its invisibility. To make a cup of coffee in many modern homes, you need four elements: a cup, a capsule of coffee or loose beans, an espresso machine or equivalent, and water. If you prefer a cappuccino, milk is the fifth element. Invisibility is simple. You place the cup in the machine, press a button, and drink.

Where Can We Uncover 4IR in a Cup of Coffee?

Most likely, the first three products reached your kitchen through the global shipping industry. Modern container ships are designed by using artificial intelligence to simulate different marine conditions on the materials and shape of the hull. The container's position on the ship is optimized using machine learning for its size, weight, type of cargo, and order of unloading, resulting in a more efficient and faster process. The ship will use rocket-launched satellites for GPS positioning. It will also use the most advanced supercomputers to calculate its route based on meteorological data.

Production of coffee is labor-intensive and often associated with underdeveloped regions. Rural areas will often have no fixed telephone lines, and physical banking infrastructure is almost non-existent. With the advent of mobile communications and secure banking applications, designed, built, and operated with a combination of 4IR technologies, not only are we skipping an intermediate technological age, but also bringing the latest technology right into the hands of those who largely missed the third industrial revolution.

The person who picked your coffee may have been paid via online micro-banking secured by blockchain technology. The coffee beans themselves, or the fertilizer or insecticides used to treat them, may be genetically modified to increase yields and make them more resistant to new parasites and heat conditions brought about by global warming. We'll skip over milk, sugar, industrial design, smart factory manufacturing, and all the other components since this point has already been made.

Despite the fact that coffee can be made without milk, it cannot be made without water. The infrastructure that delivers water to an individual must do so securely and reliably. Drought, overuse, and distances between growing populations and water sources call for extensive use of technology to provide water. Simply put, protecting the supply-chain infrastructure from digitally-induced interference could mean the difference between life and death.

When an Attack Is Successful, Why Are the Consequences so Frightening?

The majority of this infrastructure lies in rural areas where the digital revolution has been slow, even in highly developed countries. With the advent of 5G and other communication methods, 4IR technology is becoming more efficient, enabling cloud computing to move closer to the edge. As a result, it gives malicious actors more opportunities to cause serious damage, such as when they attacked a Florida water treatment plant. The attack succeeded in raising chlorine levels in the water. Because 4IR technologies are strategically important, the cybersecurity that surrounds them must be based on the same technologies. Hackers from the third industrial revolution have evolved into today's sophisticated digital criminals and cyber warriors. Cybersecurity is a critical component of 4IR.

Imagine the digital highway between the coffee in the field and your cup as you take the next sip. Lastly, don't forget the friendly algorithms that led you to this particular brand.

The third article of this series is available here